It’s that time of year. You’re headed to Orlando, New Orleans, San Francisco, Las Vegas, or even Europe for… a trade show. Yes, a trade show. Hopefully, you’re excited about participating as an exhibitor or an attendee. It’s a chance to discover new products and services, meet potential clients, check out the competition, and relax with colleagues and friends. Trade shows are all about business (and should be), but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be fun and relaxing while you’re reeling in the next big opportunity.
If you are a seasoned trade show traveler, you know that preparation and experience are the keys to success. But for those who are new to the stress, chaos, and excitement of trade show travel, here are some helpful tips as you prepare for your journey.
Planning Your Trade Show Travel
When it comes to trade show travel, the phrase “just winging it” should never be an option. Trade shows are expensive, whether you’re an exhibitor or an attendee. For many companies, trade show marketing often represents as much as 35% of their annual marketing budget. As a result, it’s critical to set goals, communicate those goals, and then hold everyone, including yourself, accountable.
Most large companies and organizations have travel guidelines. Those guidelines may include preferred hotels, airlines, or rental car companies, along with how loyalty points are handled and your per diem for food and entertainment. There will also be rules on how to submit receipts and the reporting of travel expenses. Familiarize yourself with these and if you have questions, ask before booking anything. Transparency is very important when it comes to planning your travel and documenting it.
Most trade shows or exhibitions have a “show” hotel. Sometimes the show prices are better. Sometimes not. Staying at the show hotel is often a matter of convenience since the hotel may be connected to the exhibition hall. This makes it easier. There’s no taxi or Uber expense. Plus, there may be events, like receptions or classes, at the hotel in conjunction with the trade show.
And, then there are the intangibles. Staying at the show hotel means more opportunities to mingle with other attendees before and after show hours. Those informal conversations with clients, industry influencers, the media, and suppliers can be the difference between closing and not closing an order — Not just at the show but on orders throughout the year. For more tips, check out our article on how to prepare for a trade show.
Trade Show Travel Tips
If you are an exhibitor, packing a few essentials can often save the day, regardless of the size of your exhibit. Anything can happen on the trade show floor, so an emergency kit of booth essentials will help you douse the fires when they arise. A good trade show supply kit should include:
- Cleaning supplies
- Paper towels
- Scotch/packing/duct tape
- Masking tape
- Extension cords/power strip
- Rubber bands
- Scissors or a boxcutter (pack in the case/crate and not your luggage)
- All-in-one mechanics tool or small toolbox
- First-aid kit
- Security zip ties/garbage bag
- Business cards
- Stretch wrap (small roll)
- Hook and loop (Velcro)
- Proof of COVID vaccination
- Return shipping labels
- Replacement bulbs
- Breath mints
- Your preferred pain reliever
Trade Show Travel Advice from a Road Warrior
Like Walking on Clouds. Bring comfortable shoe insoles. You’ll be standing and walking more than normal often on concrete or hard surfaces.
Comfortable Shoes? Please! Attending a trade show is not the time to break in a brand-new pair of shoes. Being on your feet all day is tiring enough. There’s no need to add blisters to your day.
Sshhhh! I’m trying to Sleep! When booking your hotel, ask that your room not be close to the elevator. Who needs to hear that ding-ding and foot traffic all night? And for extra credit, pick up a pack of earplugs just in case you still get a room on the express lane to the jacuzzi!
A Party? For Me?? Before making your airline/hotel reservations be sure to check if the show has scheduled any early/pre-show meetings, gatherings, or receptions that you might want to attend.
Squeaky Clean. Many hotels are no longer offering bars of soap. Instead, there’s a liquid pump bottle attached to the shower wall. Live like a king and bring your own bar of soap. You’re worth it.
Make Time for Local Treats. Is the city you’re traveling to known for any special types of food? You might consider making dinner reservations long before you arrive to ensure that you and your co-workers/guests won’t be dining on convention center fare while visiting New Orleans.
BYO Snacks. You might have to hit the pause button on your regular eating schedule. With the show floor open for a limited time, there is often no time for casual lunches. Bring your favorite snacks in Zip-Loc bags so you can sneak a snack when your stomach starts to gurgle.
Oh No! Make a list of the 5 items that you MUST MUST MUST have with you when you travel. It could be medications, prescription glasses or contacts, or your smartphone. Anything that would make your life nearly impossible if you forgot to pack it. Or simply inconvenient. For example, imagine not packing your belt and having to buy a designer belt at a Las Vegas casino. That’s an expensive lesson you’re unlikely to forget
Our Favorite Trade Shows in USA
Natural Products Expo East and Natural Products Expo West are considered two of the biggest natural products industry trade shows in both the United States and Canada. The expos bring together over 145,000 people, including many hundreds of exhibitors, to celebrate healthy living and natural products.
Each year, thousands of content professionals from all corners of the media, entertainment and technology ecosystem go to NAB Show. It’s designed for those striving to drive listeners and engage viewers in larger numbers for greater reach.
CES, the global stage where next-generation innovations are introduced to the marketplace, is held in Las Vegas every January. With over 180,000 attendees and 4,000 exhibitors from around the world, CES is the world’s gathering place for all who thrive on the business of consumer technologies.
The New York International Auto Show is an annual auto show that is held in Manhattan in late March or early April at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. It usually opens on or just before Easter weekend and closes on the first Sunday after Easter.
High Point Market encompasses more than 160 unique addresses where exhibitors set up to sell their products.Most of the exhibit space is permanent, in that the exhibitor occupies and pays rent for that space all year long.
NHS partners with NAHB International Builders’ Show® (IBS) and NKBA’s Kitchen & Bath Industry Show® (KBIS) at Design & Construction Week® at the Las Vegas Convention Center to offer even more buying, selling and networking opportunities to the Hardware and Home Improvement community.
OTC is a global event that connects offshore energy professionals from more than 90 countries to collaborate and discuss the challenges, solutions, and changing energy landscape of the offshore energy sector.
It’s the best place to see thousands of the newest automotive performance products from new and iconic exhibitors, discover the latest product and vehicle trends, and develop essential skills.
The MAGIC trade show is held annually in Las Vegas and is the premier event for the fashion industry worldwide. One advantage – it’s not just for professionals, it’s also for the public.
The ultimate destination for pet pros with over 1200 suppliers and 20,000 attendees. Exhibitor and education categories include Natural and Health, Specialty and Lifestyle, Farm and Fee, Aquatics, Reptiles, and Small Animals, and Groomer’s Marketplace.
Our Favorite International Trade Shows
Held in Dusseldorf, Germany, EuroSho is the world’s largest retail trade fair. Exhibition categories include Shop Fitting and Store Design, Visual Merchandising, Lighting, Food Service Equipment, Retail Marketing, Retail Marketing, and Expo and Event Marketing.
MWC Barcelona is the world’s largest and most influential event for the connectivity industry, specifically mobile communications.
The Geneva International Motor Show is an annual auto show held in March in the Swiss city of Geneva. The show is hosted at the Palexpo, a convention center located next to the Geneva Cointrin International Airport. The Salon is organized by the Organization Internationale des Constructeurs d’Automobiles.
The China Import and Export Fair, also known as Canton Fair, is the largest trade fair in China. The exhibition takes place in Guangzhou and is held twice annually throughout three phases: every spring and autumn. The fair exhibits almost every type of product.
Held in Cologne, Germany, the Greener Manufacturing Show is for any sustainability-focused company looking to design and manufacture their products from more sustainable materials, limit and eliminate the use of toxic chemicals, and reduce the impact of their industrial and manufacturing processes on the environment and global climate change.
Trade Show Logistics with Exhibits NW
Trade show experience matters, now more than ever in our post-COVID world. You can rely on the experienced team at Exhibits Northwest to handle the shipping, storage, and turnkey services. At ENW, we will partner with your team to plan and execute each and every trade show on your schedule to ensure your future trade shows are your best yet!